If you’ve started a business in the last five years or have even considered starting a business, it’s likely you’ve heard of cloud computing – and used it, as well.
Very few entrepreneurs truly understand what cloud computing is, though, and how it can benefit them. But for those who want to compete in today’s fast-paced business climate, a basic understanding of the cloud is a requirement, and using it effectively can mean the difference between success and failure.
To the Cloud? Where Are We Going?
In the simplest terms, cloud computing is using computing services – either hardware or software – over a network. If you’ve ever used Google Docs, for example, to write and share a document, you’ve experienced cloud computing.
The term “the cloud” comes from the image that is most commonly used to represent the site where applications, programs and data (including documents, photos, videos and more) are stored and then accessed by computer, smartphones, tablets and other devices. All of the platforms on, which the programs and applications run, are located within the cloud. Thus, no matter where you are, you can access the information that you need.
The cloud can be located within your physical space, such as on a server in your office building that stores information and programs for access by employees in-house, or it can be in a remote location. Many companies opt to use a remote cloud service, with everything stored off-site. These services allow several organizations to share space and resources; this sharing keeps costs down for the business and allows for efficient expansion when necessary.
Cloud computing can happen on a large scale – the entire company operates with remote servers, for example – or on a case-by-case basis, such as when the company chooses to use a cloud-based program or app to manage accounting, human resources, customer relationships, direct mail campaigns or another specialized function. Using these services removes the need to purchase a specialized program or hardware, or hire additional employees, while still ensuring that basic business functions are being handled efficiently.
Why The Cloud is Essential for Entrepreneurs
These days, it’s nearly impossible to run a successful business without somehow using the cloud. The biggest benefit of the cloud, though, is cost savings. A small business can save thousands of dollars each year by storing data and programs on the cloud, and by using cloud-based applications.
Much of the savings comes from the fact that organizations using cloud-based management solutions do not need to purchase expensive hardware, or regularly upgrade that hardware, to keep the business running. In addition, because servers require adequate space and the perfect temperature to operate at the optimum level, the costs can be considerable; some businesses find themselves needing to rent additional space to accommodate their servers and see exorbitant utility bills as a result of the cooling processes.
Using the cloud instead removes these costs, as well as costs associated with hiring professionals to maintain the equipment. And because the hardware and software associated with the cloud is often more powerful and up-to-date, than what most entrepreneurs can purchase on their own, it generally runs faster and more efficiently than in-house servers. This increases productivity and efficiency, which are always concerns of an entrepreneur.
What Else the Cloud Can Do For Entrepreneurs
Cloud computing increases efficiency in other ways as well. Because the cloud allows entrepreneurs and their employees or partners to work from virtually anywhere, organizations can offer flexible schedules and work arrangements. Studies show having more flexible schedules, in turn, can lead to more productive employees. The virtual nature of work also allows entrepreneurs to attract international top talent, as the cloud eliminates the need for geographic restrictions.
Entrepreneurs today owe it to themselves to become familiar with cloud computing and learn how it can benefit their businesses. From saving money to increasing productivity and efficiency, the cloud can take your business to the next level, if you leverage the power effectively. While there are certainly risks to using the cloud – such as security and the potential for data leaks – the benefits are far greater, and entrepreneurs owe it to themselves to explore the potential of this powerful tool.
About the Author:
Hannah Jackson is both a blogger and experienced small business development consultant. She has used cloud computing in her own work for several years and, also being an enthusiast of evolving mobile platforms, uses programs such as Trend Micro BYOD.